Bill Graves pitches safety as key focus for ATA

By: Brad Gardner

US truck lobby plans to spend more time and effort on safety issues.

Bill Graves pitches safety as key focus for ATA
American Trucking Associations president and CEO Bill Graves.


The American Trucking Associations (ATA) will elevate safety issues to the forefront of its agenda, its president and CEO Bill Graves has told a gathering of trucking executives.

Graves’ speech to the ATA Management Conference and Exhibition cited the emphasis on safety as vital for the industry and a necessary move to help secure broader lobbying victories within the halls of government.

Unless more time and effort is spent on safety, Graves says the ATA will continually be on the defence on every other policy and regulatory issue confronting the industry.

"Everything we do, or try to do, on Capitol Hill somehow or another revolves around the issue of safety. We’ve recognised that, we’ve acknowledged that and now we’re going to embrace that fact in our planning efforts," he says.

Graves says the ATA’s "more holistic" approach will involve better assessment of which safety-related initiatives work and how the industry and the general public can benefit from them.

Along with promoting the industry’s safety efforts, Graves says the ATA will partner with groups on safety related initiatives and put more effort into educating public officials and their staff about the industry’s concerns.

"We will be willing to work with any other organisation that is truly committed to finding solutions to greater highway safety and not just demagoging the trucking industry," Graves says.

"And as our reputation as a safety-first organisation — representing the interest of safety-first companies — becomes more widely known and accepted, I believe you’ll see the desired broader advocacy successes that this is designed to achieve."

Graves has also listed infrastructure as another pressing item on the ATA’s agenda.

"I tend to have a great interest in this issue because as a former governor, I truly understand how important it is to the states to have a federal program that is long term and fully funded. Just below the banner of safety, this is the issue I view as our top priority. It’s high on the list because it affects each and every one of us both personally and professionally," he says.

Graves bemoaned the lack of action from the US Government on an infrastructure funding program and criticised members of Congress for suggesting "devolving" the program to the states as a solution to bankrolling projects.

"Devolution is simply code for ‘passing the buck’ or in this case ‘passing the responsibility for raising a buck’ to someone else," he says.

Instead, the ATA wants user-pays introduced whereby people are directly charged for travelling on the road network.

"For the life of me I can’t figure out why is it so hard to appreciate the beauty — the simplicity of a user pay approach to building our infrastructure? it brings to mind the age old question, What part of success don’t you like?" Graves says.

Relying on general revenue to fund infrastructure is not a long-term option, Graves believes.

"It simply places us in the untenable position of competing for years and years to come with the myriad of really expensive government programs who are already lined up — hat in hand — for much needed funding from the oversubscribed US Treasury," he says.

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